With the server wage at $2.13 and the IRS changing the rules about how to tax the auto-gratuity (therefore causing my restaurant to eliminate it), it cost me and my serving partner for yesterday evening money to wait on a party of twenty 16-17 year old softball players, as my partner and I were only tipped six dollars total between all twenty girls and had to pay the bartender, the hosts, AND the credit card fees off our total sales from that party, leaving us owing the restaurant two dollars. While I know this is not a huge amount, the fact remains that the restaurant made almost $250 off of this party, and then I had to pay for the PRIVILEGE of not being tipped for my service, which was excellent and not deserving of the 3% tip we received.
Since our wages are made completely on the largesse of the customer, the industry should be made to pay servers a living wage to keep people from paying the restaurant to wait on a table. If I knew that I had a paycheck coming in the future, my rage towards the unfairness in these situations would be considerably less, as I know that my paycheck will make up for whatever atrocious and non-tipping tables I might wait on in the two week pay period. However, I have not received a check from my restaurant in over three years besides my training pay when I first started, and have owed the IRS $250-$400 every year because the $2.13 an hour wage does not allow me to pay enough taxes throughout the year, even though I do not receive any paychecks from my company. When you only make $18,000 a year, $400 is a lot of money to pay the government just because I am not paid enough hourly to cover my own federal taxes throughout the year. I am supporting myself through graduate school and the owner of my local restaurant chain has made a fortune exploiting the working poor in my area. He has also insulated himself from any sort of lawsuit or labor board investigation through supporting local and state politicians. If there is anything that the restaurant needs (such as new bissels for cleaning the floors), he insulates himself against this cost by taking these essentials, deemed as “extras”, directly out of the managers’ pooled bonus. This is not even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to restaurant industry injustice, and treating service industry workers as second-class citizens both financially and socially leads to the bitter resentment that most service industry workers can easily claim. Imagine having to make your living off the generosity of others and how “easy” they perceive your job to be and how “undeserving” you are of what many believe to be extra wages, instead of your ONLY wage. I have been waiting tables for almost six years, and it is one of the most physically and emotionally thankless jobs that no one who has not worked in the industry understands.
While it forms an unbreakable and beautiful spirit of fraternity with your fellow servers, Living Off Tips makes you bitter, angry, and brings you face to face with the inability of government to curb corporate greed in order to help the working poor.